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Tacoma City Council evaluates City Manager Eric Anderson

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Aug. 16, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
August 16, 2010 2:27 pm

Tacoma’s city council gave the city manager generally high marks in a recently completed performance evaluation, citing Eric Anderson’s overall organization, public relations and work with state and federal officials among his strengths.

Anderson’s latest annual report card – his fifth overall – also stresses the city manager has “demonstrated a solid understanding” of budget issues during tough economic times.

Anderson

“Several evaluators expressed that fiscal management is just one of the City Manager’s strengths,” the report said.

But council members also identified areas for improvement, focusing on Anderson’s communication with the council about budget issues, projects and other major policy decisions. Several comments in the report described Anderson needing to do a better job of giving the council more details, options and advance notice on issues so that the council isn’t backed into corners in its decision-making.

“Overall, I think we’re pleased with his performance,” Mayor Marilyn Strickland said. “But by their very nature, evaluations are meant to improve performance.”

(Here’s a copy of the evaluation.)

With five new members, the council changed this year’s evaluation of Anderson from past performance reviews. It dropped a five-point ranking system and instead emphasized a narrative format in which council members anonymously provided written feedback.

Commentary at times was mixed, even contradictory, providing Anderson with a breadth of feelings about his performance in six major categories.

“Our purpose was not necessarily to get consensus, but to give everyone an opportunity to offer (unfettered) feedback,” Strickland said.

With nine people evaluating Anderson, “you’re going to get (differences) no matter what,” added Councilman Spiro Manthou. “But I think overall, we’re pleased.”

Among other things, the report sought Anderson to provide more details and explanations about budget decisions and raised concerns about deteriorating relations with labor unions.

Some members also “expressed concern about the City’s communication with the public,” requesting Anderson to develop a more sophisticated “communications plan,” the report said.

The report noted feedback from residents and various public officials about Anderson has been generally positive.

“Evaluators have heard very positive comments and compliments about the City Manager on a national level,” the report said.

The performance evaluation comes in an off-year when Anderson is not up for a contract extension or pay raise. Hired in 2005, Anderson now makes $200,450 per year.

Under his current contract, Anderson is not eligible to receive a raise until the national economy shows growth in two successive quarters. His next contract renewal is due in July 2011, city spokesman Rob McNair-Huff said.

Anderson said Friday he “appreciated” the council’s feedback.

“The council took it seriously and gave some suggestions for areas where I can actually make some improvements,” he said. “I agree with their findings.”

“He should be happy with it,” said Councilman Jake Fey. “If I got this evaluation, I’d be happy.”

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